Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Further Squatgate Discussions

Malaysia's home minister Azmi Khalid led a delegation of 16 people including immigration and tourism officials to China. They are now in Beijing for a couple of days, after which they will fly off to Shanghai and Guangzhou to meet local officials. Their aim is an attempt to bolster Malaysia's reputation after the recent outcry over alleged abuses of Chinese women by local police. They plan to meet Chinese travel writers, tour operators and advertisers to promote tourism to Malaysia.

This is the prime minister’s personal initiative, a damage control action, stemming from the Squatgate scandal. The alleged atrocious police treatment of foreigners including Chinese nationals – tourists, students and overstaying visitors – has been appalling. But how in the world can they ‘bolster’ a tarnished reputation by mere talk and assurances, when the solution is bloody obvious.

For example, last week a Japanese student was a victim of police extortion, impudently committed by two policemen even while the Squatgate turbulence was raging. Now two Iranians, one a businessman and the other a student, have emerged from their silence to voice their personal experiences at the rough hands of our law guardians. In Fujian region in China, there have been additional complaints of such ill treatment by Malaysian officials.

Surely this can no longer be put down to a simple case of police reaction to Chinese visitors moonlighting as prostitutes, that required the sort of police shakedown experienced by a number of women including wives of Malaysian citizens. We have also heard of a husband who rushed to the police station to identify his wife but was told to cough up a tidy sum if he wanted a quicker verification of her documents by Immigration.

In virtually every case of complaint against the police, extortion had been involved, only magnified by the disgraceful ogling of naked women in by police in the Petaling Jaya police station, and the Abu Ghraib-ish squatting incident. The reality is some police people have became nothing more than uniformed extortionists or worse. The Police Force has a stinking rotting core.

But where has been the government’s action, other than this frantic reaction to mollify the Chinese authority. Police abuses have not been recent phenomena, as evident by the recent Royal Commission into the Police Force. The locals have suffered for years in mute agony while their reports on the abuses had been ignored or brushed aside. Worst, there have been unresolved incidents involving death in police custody. Even the Commission's Report and recommendations are perceived to be gathering dust in some unknown ministerial room somewhere. There has been a noticeable lack of will by the current government to resolve the Police monster.

It had to take a foreign power to shake the government up, not because of honour, conscience or a legal/diplomatic obligation to do teh right thing, but because of money or more precisely the Chinese RMB.

The Chinese officials haven’t let them off that easily. Assistant Foreign Minister Shen Guofang reminded them that China had urged the Malaysian Government to take urgent measures to investigate the cases and severely punish those involved.

Severely punish!!! Hah, let’s wait and see.

Meanwhile, three air force members and another man have been arrested on suspicion of raping a 32-year-old visiting Chinese businesswoman at a hotel in Klang. How does this add to Chinese confidence that Malaysia is a safe tourist destination, when government personnel could gang rape a visiting business woman.

Malaysia has truly botched up the earlier Chinese gesture of making Malaysia one of the first countries to obtain approved destination status from China's outbound tourism authorities. But what is interesting has been what a spokesman for China Travel Service said, that while the Malaysian police abuses are troubling, and their impact will depend on how the Malaysian side deals with them, he doesn’t believe they have been the sole reason for a marked drop in Chinese visitor numbers.

Could he be referring to general friendly treatment, attractions and the sort of services that tourist-oriented countries like Thailand, Australia, Bali or New Zealand have been providing? If we want tourists we need to be friendly and treat them as welcomed honoured guests, rather than consider them as fair game for nefarious treatment, or even insulting them by insinuating they are like pigs, as had occurred at Genting Highlands.

If Malaysians believe the Chinese visitors are a security threat to the nation or they are 'pigs', then close the door to them. Seek other visitors.

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